Degenerative Disc Disease
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
Your spine is under enormous stress every day. When you walk, sit, lay down, or move, force is placed on your spinal discs. With time, this force can cause your discs to malfunction and break down. The wear and tear your discs experience is referred to as degenerative disc disease.
It is a little bit misleading to refer to this condition as a disease. It is a condition caused by the wear and tear your discs experience over the years. This wear and tear leads to instability as well as other symptoms including:
- Radiating pain in the legs
- Radiating pain in the arms
What causes Degenerative Disc Disease?
Spinal disks wear down as a normal part of aging. After age 50, most individuals will have experienced some measure of disk degeneration. Not everyone, however, will experience pain. Some additional causes include:
- Fluid Loss: At birth the core of our disc is approximately 80 percent water. As we get older, that core naturally loses some water, resulting in the discs becoming thinner, which in turn leads to less shock absorption.
- Everyday activities: When you move, when you jump, and even when you step, your spinal disc help to control the force that the ground exerts on your body. However with time and age, these constant movements can cause tears in the outer core of the disc.
- Injuries: Minor injuries to your back, including sports related injuries, can lead to small cracks in your spinal disks. Often times, these tears are near nerves which can be painful, even when they are minor.
What are the symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease?
The chronic pain and weakness caused by degenerative disc disease is usually a low-level pain with periodic spikes of severe pain. Degenerative disc disease most commonly affects the cervical spine (the neck) and the lumbar spine (the lower back). This is because your neck and your lower back endure a higher level of stress and motion than the rest of your spine. As a result, these areas have a higher level of susceptibility to disc degeneration.
Symptoms of degenerative disc disease could include:
- An uptick in pain when you bend or twist your spine
- Pain that increases when lifting heavy objects
- Feeling like your spine cannot support your weight
- A locking up or seizing of the spine
- Muscle spasms, ranging from mild to debilitating
- Radiating hot pain affecting the shoulders, arms, hips, buttocks, or legs
- Increased pain when standing or sitting in stationary positions
- A reduction in pain when frequently changing position, walking, or stretching
Most degenerative disc disease sufferers have a baseline of pain that ranges from nonexistent to severe. It is rare for degenerative disc disease to cause debilitating pain. It’s important to note that the severity of your pain does not necessarily correlate to the severity of your injury. Severely degenerated discs may produce no pain, whereas slightly damaged discs may result in severe pain.
Treating and Diagnosing Degenerative Disc Disease
Your medical history will go a long way in helping your doctor diagnose your condition. Your doctor will be keenly interested in learning about your history of pain. When did you first experience pain, and how long have you been dealing with it? What things increase and decrease your pain? Other questions about dietary habits and exercise levels will help your doctor evaluate your condition.
A physical examination and imaging tests will give your doctor a clear view of what’s causing your pain and of how your pain is affecting you. Reflex tests, range of motion tests, MRIs, and x-rays may be used in this regard.
How We Can Help
During your consultation with us, we will discuss the pain you are experiencing. After we thoroughly understand how your condition has been affecting you, we will work to create a minimally invasive treatment program that is right for you.
The only way for us to know which option is best for you is by talking to you. That’s why when you come into our clinic you’ll see that our primary goal is just to listen to you. We want to hear about your pain, we want to hear about the treatments you’ve tried, and then we want to work with you to create a pain management treatment that’ll work.
Our goal is to provide you with both a long-term and short-term treatment. The long-term treatment is designed to help you manage your pain for the rest of your life. The short-term treatment is to get you back on your feet today so that you can get back to living the life you deserve.
Degenerative disc disease can produce constant pain that robs your life of joy. You do not have to live with pain. Let us show you how you can make your back pain a thing of the past!